All things Chinese tea, food and culture.

Recent Tea Posts

Cheese Tea?? Give It a Try If You Haven’t Already! (With Recipe)

Cheese Tea?? Give It a Try If You Haven’t Already! (With Recipe)

I’m not sure if everyone noticed it, but cheese tea has been a hit among the young generation over the past few years. Here in China, if there’s a long queue on the street or in a mall, it’s most likely in front of a […]

The History The Menghai Tea Factory,  Taetea (Dayi)

The History The Menghai Tea Factory, Taetea (Dayi)

Yunnan Taetea (Dayi) Group is one of the most well-known pu erh tea manufacturers in the world. The group owns several companies including the famous Menghai Tea Factory. Located in Xishuangbanna in the Southwest Yunnan the factory has been providing quality tea for over 70 […]

What Brewed Tea Leaves Tell You About The Quality of Tea

What Brewed Tea Leaves Tell You About The Quality of Tea

Brewed wet tea leaves (Yedi, 叶底) contains a lot of information about the tea that you’re drinking. Too often they’re simply ignored and discarded. Take a careful look at those wet leaves, and it can tell you more about its quality and how it was picked and processed. With a few tips that we share in this article, you can judge tea quality without even tasting it.

Brewed tea leaves
Brewed tea leaves

Learning to judge tea can make you a better buyer of tea. It can be especially useful when you’ve the luxury to first taste teas before you buy. Imagine, you’re in China and visiting tea shops to stock up some decent tea. The first thing you find out is that there’s way too much choice. It’s easy to simply ask the owner recommend you something. But why hurry? In China it’s perfectly normal to ask the owner to prepare the tea for you. And while you taste the tea, you’ve the opportunity to check out the brewed leaves! Moreover, the owner will get the impression that you’re a connoisseur and start bringing you the good stuff without quoting outrageous prices.

To start this experiment yourself, infuse some tea in hot water until it’s fully unfurled. Then spread out the leaves on a plate.

Blister-like bubbles on the brewed tea leaves

Sometimes you can see small bubbles on the brewed tea leaves. It’s usually caused by high temperature during roasting and indicates problems during the process for most teas. If you’re in the position to first taste before you buy, you should avoid these teas. But for teas such as rock tea and some yellow tea, it is a good sign. These bubbles on rock tea (yan cha) is known in China as ‘The Frog’s Back’. See how it looks in the below picture:

frogs back rock tea yan cha brewed leaves
‘Frog’s Back’ on rock tea

Frog’s back is a term to describe dry and brewed oolong tea leaves, especially for Wuyi rock tea. It means the white dots that look like grains of sand on the dry leaves, and the blister-like bubbles on the brewed tea leaves of rock tea that resemble a frog’s bumpy back with raised spots.

Fish roe bubbles on dry yellow tea leaves
Fish roe bubbles on dry yellow tea leaves

The appearance of the frog’s back on rock tea is from its traditional long roasting process. It is generally hard to find on the greenish brown dry leaves if you don’t look carefully.

Yellow tea is another type of tea on which you can see the bubbles.

This term is to describe the fish roe sized burnt spots on the dry leaves and tiny bubbles on the brewed leaves of yellow tea.

Yellow tea requires high-fired roasting, which leads to the fish roe sized burnt spots due to the high temperature during the process.

In conclusion, bubbles on tea is generally a sign of poor tea processing. The quality of processing is sacrificed often for more efficiency in production. However, for yellow tea and yan cha these round spots can be considered a normal result of tea production.

Fish roe bubbles on brewed yellow tea leaves
Fish roe bubbles on brewed yellow tea leaves

Black burnt spots

Black burnt spots on brewed tea leaves
Black burnt spots on brewed tea leaves

See bubbles isn’t as bad as seeing black burnt spots. For green tea, if you can sometimes see obvious black burnt spots or small black dots on the brewed leaves. This means there was either excessive heat or low skilled processing during the roasting process. A small amount of black burned spots isn’t a problem, but you shouldn’t see too many of them.

Loofah

Loofah-like brewed tea leaves
Loofah-like brewed tea leaves

On some dry or brewed leaves of black tea leaves, you can see the veins are partly separated from the leaves that it looks like a loofah. This is usually caused by excessive piling during production, which isn’t the best condition for the tea. Avoid such teas.

Degree of the unfolding

Nicely unfolded brewed leaves
Nicely unfolded brewed leaves

As the number of times of brewing increases, quality tea leaves will gradually unfold and expand fully in the end. Such tea shows good manufacturing technology and a stable aging. It’s also a sign that it can be steeped multiple times and still tastes good.

If the tea leaves unfold fully soon after steeping, they are most likely made from coarse or old leaves, and would taste bland after a few steeps.

If the leaves do not unfold or unfold to a small degree even after multiple times of brewing, we can be sure that they are the result of problematic manufacture process such as over-heating roasting and wrong environment of the aging period. This kind of tea usually makes the throat dry and uncomfortable.

Wholeness

Brewed ripe pu erh leaves with proper loosening
Brewed ripe pu erh leaves without proper loosening

The less broken pieces of the brewed leaves are, the better the tea is. Good tea will show a nice and neat appearance after being brewed.

Elasticity and flexibility

Tender and flexible brewed tea leaves
Tender and flexible brewed tea leaves

Pinch the brewed tea leaves with fingers and feel the elasticity and the flexibility. If the elasticity and the flexibility level are high, it means the tea leaves were young and tender, the manufacturing process was appropriate. In addition, if this trait is found in brewed pu erh leaves, it also indicates a good natural aging processs.

If the brewed tea leaves feel blunt and inelastic, it means the leaves were old or the tea went through a bad manufacturing process.

Colour

Brewed leaves of vintage raw pu erh with standard storage environment
Brewed leaves of vintage raw pu erh with standard storage environment

The colour of brewed tea leaves is mainly relevant for pu erh tea.

For recent raw pu erh, the brewed tea leaves are relatively fresh and green. Good raw pu erh that ages with the appropriate temperature and humidity will be fermented nicely, and the brewed teas leaves will be bright orange.

If the pu erh was stored in an environment with too much humidity and bad ventilation, its brewed leaves would not turn orange/red even after decades of storage. The brewed tea leaves would be dark and rough if the tea didn’t get well fermented.

Overly strong aroma

Brewed tea leaves should always have a light fragrance of the tea. Any odd smell could imply a problem of the tea. Very pronounced smells could indicate artificial flavouring and added aroma’s. This aspect of judging the quality of brewed tea does require some experience though.

Brewed tea leaves with burnt marks
Brewed tea leaves with burnt marks

If the tea got burnt during the manufacturing process, it would be often accompanied by heavy mixed odours such as smoke and fire odours. When it comes to pu erh it would lose the ability of good natural aging.

Impurities

Burnt brewed tea leaves with impurities

Impurities in the tea are also the cause of odd smells and bad tastes. It is also harmful for the health. This could happen if the farmer is dishonest and add other things to make there tea batch heavier. In this case, we urge you to discard the tea for the sake of your health.

Notes on pu erh

Brewed leaves of well-stored vintage raw pu erh
Brewed leaves of well-stored vintage raw pu erh

After years of fermentation, the brewed leaves of raw pu erh could be dark too – brown or dark brown like those of a dark oolong. The brewed leaves should however be full and tender with a sense of freshness.

Some raw pu erh on the market weren’t get dried right after the rolling process. These the brewed tea leaves would be brown and steep a thick and dark soup, and much alike those of the lightly fermented ripe pu erh.

Brewed leaves of ripe pu erh with dry and hard texture
Brewed leaves of ripe pu erh with dry and hard texture

Brewed leaves are mostly dark brown or black with a dry and hard texture.

The heavily fermented leaves would even look like they were scorched by fire. Some old leaves will break into loofah-like shape.

If the ripe pu erh didn’t go through a long piling period, it could be just lightly fermented, its brewed leaves would be very similar to those of raw pu erh.

Why Jiaogulan is also known as the Immortality Herb: Video

Why Jiaogulan is also known as the Immortality Herb: Video

Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) is a plant that grows in Southern China. Japanese researchers discovered this herb while looking for a natural sweetener. Yet, they discovered other more powerful health benefits. Joe Hollis gives a short introduction of this medicinal plant.

The History of Xiaguan Tuocha

The History of Xiaguan Tuocha

Yunnan Xiaguan Tuocha (Group) Co., Ltd. is a pu erh factory that’s prominent in the tea industry. The company is the result of a merger of many small factories in the Xiaguan district of Dali, Yunnan. The earliest company was established in 1902, meaning that […]

8 Major Raw Materials Used in Teaware!

8 Major Raw Materials Used in Teaware!

Teaware Meaning

The modern definition of teaware (Cha Ju, 茶具) is different from the ancient times. Teaware used to refer to the various tools used in tea production and consumption, including tea picking, making, drinking, storage etc. Nowadays, teaware only refers to tea utensils, including tea cups, teapots, tea bowls, saucers, trays and other drinking utensils.

The usage, maintenance, appreciation and the collection of teaware have become specialised knowledge. According to the different materials, teaware can be divided into 7 categories. You must have heard of Yixing Zisha (purple clay) and Jingdezhen porcelain. But what else is available? Let’s take a look now!

Chinese Teaware materials

Though we often speak of a Chinese tea culture, there’s a high diversity of sub-cultures. This isn’t strange as China is a large country with many small minority groups. Within China, 7 types of materials are regularly used to produce Chinese teaware.

Clay Teaware

Clay teaware mainly means Yixing made purple clay teaware (Yixing Zisha). It first appeared in the Northern Song Dynasty and flourished through Ming and Qing Dynasty. Till this day, Zisha teaware remains popular.

Yixing Zisha teapots are elegantly shaped with unique colour. Not only the looks made Zisha famous, but also its special qualities: low thermal conductivity, high density, unglazed surfaces that allow the tea to breathe. All these qualities help improve colour, fragrance and taste of the tea.

Because Yixing clay is appreciated for it’s great isolation, it’s often used to prepare oolong and pu erh tea, which require high temperatures.

Porcelain Teaware

  • White Porcelain (Bai Ci, 白瓷) Teaware: it has quite a few origins – Jingdezhen in Jiangxi province, Liling in Hunan, Dayi in Sichuan, Tangshan in Hebei, Qimen in Anhui. Among them, the products from Jingdezhen are the most famous ones. White porcelain is versatile, suitable for all kinds of tea.
  • Celadon Porcelain (Qing Ci, 青瓷) Teaware: Celadon teaware was mainly produced in Zhejiang and Sichuan Province. It is known as “the flower of porcelain” for its exquisite texture, smooth lines and pure colour.
  • Black Porcelain (Hei Ci, 黑瓷) Teaware: it is produced in Zhejiang, Sichuan and Fujian Province. Teaware made of black porcelain is solid and thick, with simple and classic looks and good thermal insulation.
gaiwan porcelain
Gaiwan made from porcelain

Unlike Yixing clay, this type of material doesn’t affect the taste of tea. Therefore, it’s perfect for teas with mild flavours such as green, yellow and white tea.

Glass Teaware

Glass, together with porcelain and Yixing, are among the top 3 most used teaware materials in China. Glassware perform poor when it comes to isolation. However, this doesn’t matter if you prepare teas that doesn’t require high heat, such as green tea.

The great advantage of glass teaware is its transparency. Tea enthousiasts love to stare at teas with beautiful appearances. When water is poured into a glass or teapot, once can see the leaves swirling around. This is often referred to as ‘dancing leaves

Glassware also allow you to better observe the colour change the tea liquor. In other words, glass teaware allows you to see clearly the entire brewing process, just like enjoying a dynamic art performance.

glass teapot infuser with warmer
Glassware with tea warmer and cups

Lacquer Teaware

Lacquarware are objects decoratively coated with the dyed, treated and dried sap of Toxicodendron vernicifluum or closely related trees.

metal steel tea infuser ball
Steel tea infuser ball

Lacquer teaware first appeared in Qing Dynasty, mainly produced in Fuzhou, Fujian Province. It is famous for the beautiful colours. It gets more appreciated among the collectors after the creation of the new crafts like “Red Jade”, “Gold Sand” and “Shadow Flowers”.

Metal Teaware

Teaware made of metals such as gold, silver, steel, copper, and tin has its moisture proof, leak-proof, antioxidant, anti-odour qualities. Tin is especially good for tea storage. Silver and copper is often used to produce water boilers, while gold is mainly used for decoration. At last, stainless steel is often used for tea strainers.

Bamboo and Wood Teaware

Historically, the vast majority of rural people used bamboo or wooden bowls to make tea as they were inexpensive, strong and light.

Today, it is still loved by many for its natural and unvarnished looks. Often times tea scoops, storage jars and the handle of tea knives are made from bamboo or other types of wood.

Enamel Teaware

Enamel teaware refers tools which usually have a metal base which is coated with a durable surface (enamel).

Enamel teaware is practical, anti-corrosion, light and not costly. It was popular throughout China in the 50’s and 60’s. But it has one flaw: high thermal conductivity. In other words, the teaware can become very hot to hold.

As people’s living standards gradually improved, enamel teaware has been slowly replaced by other kinds of teaware.

Bone China in English Teaware UK

One more teaware material that we shouldn’t forget is Bone China. It was discovered by Thomas Frye in the 18th century in the United Kingdom. Today, there are 3 types that we need to distinguish:

  • Bone China: is made by mixing cow bone ash with feldspar, ball clay, quartz, and kaolin. The cow bone component makes the teaware translucent.
  • Fine China: the same as bone china but without the cow bone ash.
  • New Bone China: calcium oxide is used instead of bone ash. This makes it less light and translucent, but makes the teaware whiter and improves the durability.

 

8 Dental Health Benefits of Drinking Green Tea

8 Dental Health Benefits of Drinking Green Tea

You can’t tackle your oral hygiene without taking your diet into account. The food and drinks that we consume have a direct impact on our health, particularly on our teeth and gums. In recent times the sugar content in foods has gone up, making the […]

Homemade Hawthorn Jam Recipe DIY

Homemade Hawthorn Jam Recipe DIY

Hawthorn berry is full of vitamin C, carotene and other antioxidants. These little red fruits can block and reduce the formation of free radicals, enhance our body’s immunity, help reducing blood pressure, and help indigestion. Although with all these health benefits, fresh hawthorn berry is […]

Why Chrysanthemum Tea is Good for Skin

Why Chrysanthemum Tea is Good for Skin

Drinking Chrysanthemum tea has a long history in Chinese culture. It is well known for its soothing aroma and multiple benefits for the human body including detoxification, clearing up the hot flashes, improving eyesight, relieving symptoms of sore throat and fever. But did you know it also holds many benefits for the skin?

Variaties

There are a number of varieties of chrysanthemum flowers. Their colours go from white-ish yellow to dark yellow. One popular variety is Gongju from Huangshan Mountain area, which means “tribute chrysanthemum” in Chinese. The Hangbaiju is another popular variety which comes from the city of Hangzhou. At last, the famous Taiju is made of the buds of Hangbaiju.

Good for Skin!

All chrysanthemum varieties are good for the skin. They have been traditionally used to treat skin irritation, redness, and eczema. Plenty of beta-carotene can be found in chrysanthemum that participates in metabolism and the maintenance of the human body. Beta-carotene also breaks down into vitamin A to provide a variety of different uses. Vitamin A presents itself as antioxidants, along with flavonoids found in chrysanthemum, help fight free radicals. Drinking chrysanthemum tea or use it on your skin will reduce wrinkles and blemishes, help decrease skin discolouration, eliminate puffiness. With it’s antiseptic and anti-inflammatory effect, it is often used to help reduce swelling and redness of acne.

Drinking Chrysanthemum herbal tea isn’t the only way to enjoy it’s skin benefits. Here are a couple of skin care tips using chrysanthemum flowers that have been proven effective as well:

Chrysanthemum and egg white renewal mask

Effects: reduce wrinkles, soften skin, effectively inhibit the production of melanin with regular use.

What’s needed: 5 grams of dry chrysanthemum, one egg white

Steps:

  • pour 50 ml (1 oz) of hot water over the chrysanthemum and wait for the water to cool down
  • blend the chrysanthemum with the cooled down water until smooth
  • stir the egg white with the blended chrysanthemum evenly
  • apply the mixture to clean face
  • when the it dries, rinse it off with water, apply moisturiser

Chrysanthemum anti-acne remedy

Effects: reduce the swelling, speed up the healing process, control the recurrence of acne with long-term use

What’s required: 50 grams of dry chrysanthemum, ice-cube tray

Steps:

  • boil the chrysanthemum with 300ml of water and simmer for 20 minutes
  • wait for the water to cool down, then discard the chrysanthemum
  • pour the cooled down water into the ice-cube tray, store in the freezer
  • when chrysanthemum water is frozen, rub it on the acne for 5 minutes, do it twice daily

Note: when you are holding the ice-cube, cover it with a towel to protect your hand.

This post is sponsored by Dream Kitchen Solutions: If you want your tea on the go, take a look at these travel mug reviews from Dream Kitchen Solutions.

8 Hunan Cuisine Dishes To Order When Travelling in China

8 Hunan Cuisine Dishes To Order When Travelling in China

The Hunan cuisine (湖南菜/湘菜) is best known for its common use of chili peppers. Due to its spicy dishes, it’s often compared with the Sichuan cuisine. If you ask any Chinese what their impression of Hunan food is, they will most likely tell you one […]